Blood On The Tracks

Bob Dylan

Columbia Records, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Blood On The Tracks has been called the definitive album that Bob Dylan has ever recorded in his career, as well as the most poignant picture of a relationship in all stages of breakup, from initial deterioration to complete free-fall.

As I'm writing this review, I'm slowly working my way through Dylan's discography, so I'm not ready to say the first statement is correct. And, after spending a month listening to this album well over a dozen times, I can't necessarily say the second statement is true, either. Honestly, this album confuses me – though Dylan has never been crystal clear as to specific messages in all of his songs, leaving them open for interpretation.

This much I do know to be true: Blood On The Tracks is a good solid album.

At times exhibiting the crooning style that he had on Nashville Skyline (if not the exact vocal tones), and at others slipping into the seesaw-like characteristic that so many have used to imitate him, Dylan does create some of the most powerful songs that he had written to that point – and, more importantly, come through with a solid album that, with rare exception, had precious little filler in it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If all you knew of this disc was “Tangled Up In Blue,” that might be sufficient enough… but there is more to the album. So, so much more. Listening to tracks such as “Shelter From The Storm,” “Simple Twist Of Fate,” “If You See Her, Say Hello” and the powerhouse closer “Buckets Of Rain,” one has to wonder why songs such as these didn't get the same kind of attention that the disc's opener has over the course of time.

And there are times when certain things come to light. Listening to “Idiot Wind,” I finally understood why Dylan was so pissed at Hootie And The Blowfish and threatened to sue them for plagiarism. Certain portions of “Only Wanna Be With You” were lifted word-for-word from this song – and while I'm not a particular fan of “Idiot Wind” as it seems to be both preachy and bitter at the same time, it was crystal clear why Dylan won a settlement over the lyrical content of both songs.

The only time that Blood On The Tracks becomes too self-important is when Dylan reverts to using his songs to try and make them into morality plays, as he does with “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts”. Is it a terrible song? No. But it just doesn't seem to fit the mold that the other tracks on this disc try to establish.

Make no mistake, there is a sense of loss and rebuilding that envelops these songs. But I can't say for sure whether Dylan was actually singing about the breakup of his marriage at the time – and he's not returning my calls, so I guess we'll never know. Yet even in the darkness, occasionally streams of light come through in the music – which, in the end, is what makes Blood On The Tracks stand out among all of Dylan's works to this point.

Whether Blood On The Tracks is truly Dylan's greatest album is something that can be debated until the end of time. But one thing is certain: even with the rare misstep, this is one that belongs in everyone's collection.

Rating: B

User Rating: A



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